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    SWMissourian
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    • Wash Our Hands of the Ukraine An Editorial Over the last few decades, it has become all too popular in numerous circles to seek out foreign adventures to entangle the US in.  Since the end of the Cold War, the US has intervened in such locales as Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq, Libya, and Afghanistan.  Only in the last of these cases were American interests clear-cut (and only then because the Taliban decided to keep harboring a terrorist who had masterminded a devastating attack on US soil despite clear demands, and even then the US managed to overstay its welcome only to have the local government collapse in a manner worthy of a Monty Python movie).  The 2010s also saw a bungled (and fortunately, truncated) effort to intervene in Syria.  Over the last 35 years (give or take), the US has spent trillions of dollars in these wars (Iraq and Afghanistan ran about $2 trillion a piece, give or take a few hundred billion).  And for all of that blood and treasure, what do we have to show? Frankly, not a whole lot. The problem is not with the US military: We have shown that we can win shock-and-awe campaigns.  Frankly, we've managed that every time we've gone in someplace: We destroy whatever conventional forces exist more-or-less overnight.  This happened in Iraq (twice), it happened in Afghanistan, and it happened in various ways in the Balkans. The Ukraine is a corrupt train wreck: Its leadership is entangled with the main backer of the Azov Battalion, a unit where the debate is whether their inspiration is neo-Nazi or just plain Nazi (in particular, they use the "lightning bolts" of the SS).  The country is one rolling corruption scandal (witness the Hunter Biden flap, which is noxious enough before we get to questions of hacks during the 2016 election), to the point that a joke a few years back was that the Ukrainians elected the richest man in the country in the hopes that he had enough money that he would see no reason to take bribes.  He was, of course, thrown out after a single term.  The country is decades away from being a reasonable partner for the European Union (which seems likely to manage to simply import trouble if they attempt to entangle themselves there).  And of course, there's the uncomfortable fact that the Azov Battalion is linked to all sorts of "bad actors" on the extremes of the political spectrum. The US has spent years offering aid (in various forms) to the Ukraine.  We have nothing to show for it but a string of messy elections, a government which is in bed with the worst kind of bad domestic actors, and numerous sorts of trouble. It is time to admit that there are corners of the world where the US simply doesn't have an interest, where western democracy and western capitalism simply do not flourish.  In Afghanistan, twenty years of misguided efforts got us the return of the Taliban, who captured large amounts of US military equipment in the process.  In Iraq, a decade got us a government that fled in the face of ISIS and let them take over tens of millions of dollars of American military equipment.  The subsequent years have seen us progress to a situation where we have "freed" a country from Saddam Hussein...and promptly have it turn into a quasi-satellite of Iran as thanks.  These same "liberal" impulses also got us the Arab Spring, something which produced lasting reform almost nowhere and saw numerous countries devolve into coups and counter-coups.  The Syrian Civil War (admittedly entangled with the rise of ISIS) has seen the deaths of over 600,000 people  and the displacement of millions more. We should note that through all of these messes, through all of these attempts to bring "democracy" and "freedom" to various parts of the world, as Sherlock Holmes drew a Scotland Yard detective's attention to "the curious incident of the dog in the night-time", we would draw your attention to the curious involvement of Europe in these situations.  As in the Holmes story, you might note "But Europe has not been involved", and as in the story that is the curious incident: This side of Afghanistan, virtually no countries in Europe have sought to step in (even in Syria, where the knock-on effects for European governments have been catastrophic: Their decision not to step in very likely resulted in, among other things, Brexit).  Of course, these high-and-mighty countries are just as happy to do business with the PLO and other bad actors, and to give them cover on the global diplomatic stage, but when it's time for a fight they're just as happy to scatter. With Europe's inaction in mind, we should consider the circumstances of the Ukraine to be their problem and not ours: We should cease all involvement in the Ukraine and advise our European friends that any of their involvement there will not be grounds for us to get entangled.
    • Section I: Military Aid A) Cuts off military aid to the Ukraine, effective immediately. B) Bans the United States from providing military aid to the Ukraine until such time as the President, or his designee, certifies that the Ukrainian military has (1) disbanded the Azov Battalion (and any and all units, sub-units, or attachments or affiliated units thereof) and (2) barred current or former members of the Azov Battalion from service within the Ukrainian military or government. Section II: Civilian Aid A) Cuts off all other aid to the Ukraine. B) Only permits the State Department to reinstate aid when anti-corruption measures, to be decided upon by the President, have been enacted.
    • The Question of US Interests and NATO With the European tour of President Fitzgerald, it is worth taking stock of where (precisely) the interests of the United States and NATO actually lie.  NATO was formed as a defensive alliance, and we would emphasize the "defensive" part of that: NATO is intended as a collective security measure for its members, not as an exercise in global adventurism.  Even the one time it has been activated, in the case of the Taliban, there was a clear act of aggression against the United States in the form of the September 11th attacks.  For the sake of clarity, these attacks were the worst peacetime attacks against a nation by an outside force in many years, placing them on a level not matched by other such incidents (e.g. the Munich Olympics incident, the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the 1998 African embassy bombings, or the attack on the USS Cole in October of 2000). In this respect, while ongoing activities in the Ukraine may be regrettable, they are not the problem of the United States: Over the last two decades, we have spent thousands of lives and untold trillions of dollars (estimates on the "total cost" of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in dollars range from around $4.2 trillion in direct appropriations to twice that once ongoing healthcare costs for veterans and debt interest come into play), and having made individual examples out of Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, the net benefits of both are dubious at best.  Thus while collective security should continue to be a concern, the idea of NATO engaging in "external adventures" (except as a clear response to a direct attack) should be absolutely ruled out. With respect to NATO, there is also the concern of "who is paying for what".  Though circumstances have improved since Donald Trump pressed other NATO states to "carry their fair share" of the defense costs (and following a 2015 agreement among NATO leaders), a candid discussion at least needs to be held with states still unable or unwilling to meet with the objective of 2% of GDP spending on a running basis.  This is particularly relevant for smaller countries (e.g. Luxembourg) where the country arguably lacks the ability to usefully spend that much on their military.  It is not clear how many countries are presently at the 2% threshold, though as of 2021 there were 17 nations which did not meet this threshold versus 10 that did.  Notably, one of those 10 is France, which has agreed to dump their nuclear capability and their defense spending was at 2.01% of their GDP at that point. A reasonable position would therefore be to assess who has made progress since 2021 in this respect.  If it is still a minority of NATO countries who are complying with the 2015 agreement, then it is time for a frank discussion about how the balance will be made up.  Collective defense is, after all, collective: NATO was not supposed to solely be a question of the US defending Western Europe, but of both sides working to defend one another.  Alien presence or no alien presence, to our knowledge nobody has sought to renegotiate the 2015 deal.  If countries cannot comply with that deal, then the onus is on them to reach out to pursue an alternative accommodation (even if it involves cutting a check to other member states to offset their commitments or paying for equipment purchases on behalf of the alliance). Of course, if the countries in question aren't willing to talk on even that front (something which would be a concession from the US), then more serious talks need to start about the nature of the US commitment.  After all, those countries which haven't met their part of the 2015 agreement simply aren't keeping up their end of the deal, and as any contract lawyer will tell you, agreements require both consideration from both sides and a meeting of the minds.  The former might arguably be intact regardless, but for countries which are clearly not meeting the standard agreed upon we can only conclude that the latter is missing.
    • The U.S. Government has purchased additional doses of the monkeypox vaccine. This is nothing to panic about. There was actually an outbreak in the U.S. back in 2003 and nobody died. This is not a new virus like COVID. We will continue to monitor the situation. 
    • Fitzgerald Administration Responds Swiftly to Monkeypox Outbreak In an attempt to respond as quickly as possible to the recently emerging outbreak of monkeypox, the Fitzgerald administration has announced the purchase of 13 million monkeypox vaccines.  Though monkeypox does not generally transmit easily between humans, human-to-human transmission is not unheard of.  The vaccines are readily available because monkeypox, cowpox, and smallpox are all related; as both monkeypox and cowpox are still "out there in the world", vaccines and treatments that are effective against this family of diseases are still well known.  Treatments for one member of this family of diseases are generally reasonably effective against other members of the family. This is not the first known outbreak of monkeypox in the United States: In 2003, an outbreak was traced to prairie dog bites (and from there to a cross-infection from rats imported from Ghana that were housed at an exotic animal distributor in Wisconsin).  That outbreak resulted in 71 cases in the United States, but it did not result in any deaths.
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